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India’s general elections: What is the result?
The result is a landslide victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, under the leadership of Narendra Modi. As we predicted, the winner had to be one of the two nation-wide parties; of the two nearly nation-wide parties, BJP and Congress, it had to be BJP. No room was left neither for any regional party nor for the possible third force of the future, the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party AAP. Between the two, BJP and Congress, it had to be BJP, because they had a powerful and charismatic leadership during the campaign, Congress had no such leadership. It had to be BJP, because they could credibly make Congress liable for endemic corruption and lack of economic growth over recent years. As this commentator had argued two months ago, Narendra Modi could get the mandate to head India’s new government only, if he could convince large parts of the non-Hindu electorate that his capacity to successfully fight corruption by far outstrips his communal inclinations. In line with this condition would go the Indians’ willingness to leave behind “old stories” of anti-Muslim crimes for the benefit of a future without corruption. Once these two conditions would be met, we assumed, then the international community would oblige. Democratic legitimacy strongly determines other governments’ attitude towards a newly elected leader and can overturn an earlier rejection of a political leader. Narendra Modi’s election success surpasses all expectations; he is in absolute command of parliament, even without his coalition partners. He did not have to wait for international recognition; the invitation to the White House is secured. So much for the result. But what about the prospects? Will corruption disappear? Will economic growth come back? Will the aspirations of the growing middle class and the ambitious young be met? Will Foreign Direct Investment come back to the Indian market? According to Modi’s promises, all the right elements for a restart of India’s development and growth are in his plans. What remains to be seen, is, whether the inevitable sacrifices connected with the necessary liberalisation of the economy will be surmounted before the government’s legitimacy is put to the test of the next elections. Modi can introduce more transparency and accountability into the government’s management of framework conditions of economic activities; he can strengthen the Rule of Law by introducing more transparency and accountability into the justice apparatus. Will this put an end to endemic corruption? The general desire is urgent and legitimate, the prospects of realisation, however, are doubtful. In substance, the new government needs to focus on a massive improvement of India’s infrastructure as the core condition for development and on the restructuring of the labour market by reducing the disproportionate size of agriculture, especially of purely subsistence agriculture, and in general, by increasing productivity growth in all fields of economic activity. At the same time, the government will have to keep finances in balance. The substantial job to be done is immense. But first, central government under Prime Minister Modi will have to make sure that State governments accept his visions and policies also in the fields where they have a primary responsibility and the constitutional prerogatives under the federal order of the Union. It was not easy, to generate enthusiasm among Indian voters during the campaign; therein, Modi actually succeeded. He got the mandate he was seeking for his vision and his political program. Whether he succeeds in its realisation, will be for India to judge. The international audience, still amazed by the sheer size of the election victory, may remain incredulous, but has no other option than to wish him well. The world needs a successful India. Unsuccessful India would remain a burden also for us.
23rd May 2014 / Philippe Welti